Alabama vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: No. 2 Tide rout Vols but lose star Jaylen Waddle for season
No. 2 Alabama scored at will in Neyland Stadium but will be down a big-time offensive playmaker going forward
No. 2 Alabama topped Tennessee 48-17 on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium in the rivalry known as the "Third Saturday in October." Of course, the game was played on October's fourth Saturday this year as the SEC's conference-only schedule underwent a shakeup.
Quarterback Mac Jones finished 25 of 31 for 387 yards, leaving the game in the fourth quarter once the Crimson Tide were well ahead of the Volunteers. Running back Najee Harris rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns, and the offense racked up a whopping 587 yards (7.7 yards per play) on the day.
Harris got things started with a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter, and Jones followed it up with a 1-yard run of his own on the next drive. Six of Alabama's first eight scoring drives were 60 or more plays with the lone exception being a Malachi Moore scoop-and-score to open the third quarter and a 23-yard drive that started after Alabama recovered an onside kick late in the third quarter.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was unable to keep up with the high-octane Tide offense, but he did go 13 of 24 for 162 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort. He hit Josh Palmer on a beautiful touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone in the third quarter to at least keep it respectable as Alabama's cornerbacks were beaten a couple times on deep passes over the course of the game.
It was not completely smooth sailing for Alabama on Saturday, though, as star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was injured on the opening kickoff. Coach Nick Saban later revealed Waddle suffered a broken ankle that will sideline him for the season.
Let's take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from the game.
Mac Jones is this year's Joe Burrow
Yes, it's time to say it. Jones checks all of the boxes. Like Burrow, he came off a pretty solid year after being somewhat of an afterthought prior to gaining the starting job. Like Burrow, he is more of an old-school signal-caller who has a big arm and makes all of the throws. Like Burrow, he has proven to be a dynamic playmaker who not only has a firm grasp of the offense but has been on the same page as receivers since the moment toe met leather.
Does that mean that he'll be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft? Let's not go that far. In fact, I don't really care that much about the comparison. In terms of what he can do for the Crimson Tide for the rest of the season, Jones can absolutely blaze the same trail that Burrow did for LSU in 2019. Like Burrow, he has weapons all around him. He has a veteran, workhorse running back; a bevy of stud receivers; and a coordinator in Steve Sarkisian that always seems to be one step ahead of the defense.
It isn't a hot take anymore. It's reality. Jones is a flat out stud.
Alabama has insurance behind Waddle
First thing's first, it is awful that Waddle is out for the season. The young man is incredibly talented and hopefully his injury doesn't derail his football aspirations. The football aspect of it does need to be discussed, though.
The Crimson Tide have been able to stack star wide receivers on star wide receivers through recruiting over the last decade, and this year is no different. John Metchie III is the next man up. Metchie had seven catches for 151 yards to lead all Alabama wideouts on Saturday afternoon knowing full well that he has more weight on his shoulders moving forward as the clear-cut No. 2 option for Jones.
All Slade Bolden did was catch six passes for 94 yards and solidify himself as the new No. 3 option. The embarrassment of riches in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is incredible. Waddle is a completely unique playmaker both on offense and in the return game, but the Tide will be OK and have plenty of talent that will combine to replace much his production.
Don't put this loss on Guarantano
Tennessee fans have grown tired of their senior quarterback over the last two games. Let's refrain from doing that for at least one week. He never gave up, tossed several perfect deep passes to his receivers and showed the kind of leadership coach Jeremy Pruitt wants to see on his team. He wasn't the problem. In fact, he might be a solution considering the circumstances.
Guarantano's play on Saturday and the leadership he displayed through a trying week is something that can help this program get back on track, and perhaps more importantly, set the tone for the younger players on the roster and teach them how to handle adversity. After all, that's exactly what happened last year when the Vols started 0-2.
Yeah, he's a machine
Another game, another day where Harris showed that he's the best running back in the sport. This is different, though. His six catches and 61 receiving yards are far more important moving forward than his 96 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Why? The offense is evolving, of course.
It's fair to say that opposing defensive coordinators will key on him a little bit more now that Waddle is out of the lineup, but Sarkisian is an innovative mind. As stated above, he always seems to be one step ahead. Could Harris line up wide? Could he be targeted through the air seven or eight times per game? I think so. If nothing else, his prowess through the air was on display again on Saturday.
Final— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 24, 2020
It might get lost in all of this ... but Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been money from the second quarter on. He just hit Josh Palmer for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone one play after he hit Jalin Hyatt in stride down the sideline. Hyatt stepped out of bounds before getting into the end zone to set up Palmer's score
Najee Harris is in again. That dude has been rolling lately. It feels like Tennessee has quit in this one.
The second half live line of this was Alabama (-26). The Crimson Tide might be able to win by 40 if this keep up. The defense has picked up right where it left off last weekend in the second half vs. Georgia.
Malachi Moore with the fumble return for a touchdown started out the second half, but Bolden fumbled on Alabama's next drive giving Tennessee good field position inside Bama territory.
Alabama answers right back with a two-yard touchdown run. Crimson Tide up 28-10. Mac Jones hit John Metchie on a perfect pass inside the 5-yard line to set up the score. This Crimson Tide offense is just a machine.
Alabama TE Miller Forristall is in the injury tent with what appears to be an arm injury.